Friday, 10 July 2009

Read "Kaddish" [short story] by Jack Dann

This is a rather atemporal story of a Jewish man grieving the death of his wife and son from the April 1989 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. I say "rather atemporal" because there are a series of what seem to be flashbacks that possibly turn out to be actually time loops or some kind of spiritual (for lack of a better word) bifurcation and release. To make up your own mind, you'd better read it yourself. You can read it in one of his latest collections, Jubilee.

One of my problems with the story is that I am not Jewish and therefore didn't understand many of the terms used: kaddish, Shekhinah, tallit, phylacteries, Akeidah, Shema, etc. I could have looked them up while I was reading but that would have been a break in the reading every time. In the end, however, this was not a huge barrier to enjoying the story, although looking at the definitions now suggests that another level of appreciation would have been potentially possible.

In the end, despite a story of desperation, near insanity, and frightening hallucinations/miracles, the main character is no worse for wear. Perhaps the story is a description of the turmoil and confusion of grief. All in all, a worthwhile read given how atypically science-fiction-like it is.

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